Brief description of workplan per phase
The project commences with the development of a provisional set of performance indicators. Indicators will be developed for three different aspects of food supply chains:
|1.||The organisational structure of food supply chains.|
|2.||The socio-economic sustainability of food supply chains and discourses on ecological sustainability.|
|3.||The institutional setting of food supply chains.|
The provisional set of performance indicators will be developed by means of a desk study on the basis of literature reviews and an assessment of completed and ongoing work of the project contractors and subcontractors. These provisional performance indicators will be used to:
|-||map and analyse the socio-economic dynamics and diversity of food supply chains and their institutional environment;|
|-||assess the socio-economic performance of food supply chains.|
The provisional set of performance indicators will serve as input for the second phase of the project. Based on the results of the
second phase of the project, the set of indicators will be fine-tuned. The fine-tuned set of performance indicators will be used to
conduct the case studies (phase 3 of the project). Based on the results of the case studies the set of performance indicators will
be finalised. The final set of performance indicators will not only be used to map and analyse the socio-economic dynamics and
diversity of food supply chains and to assess their socio-economic performance, but also to:
|-||identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for enhancing the performance of food supply chains towards sustainability;|
|-||identify 'entrance' or 'nodal' points for intervention aimed at enhancing the performance of food supply chains towards sustainability.|
The final set of performance indicators will serve as input for the policy and practical recommendations (phase 4).
The second phase is entitled 'state of the art' and entails a macro-level description and analysis of the dynamics and diversity of food supply chains as well as of consumers' attitudes towards sustainable food products in the participating countries. The objectives of this description and analysis are:
|1.||To get a general overview of the diversity in socio-economic dynamics of food supply chains regarding sustainability in relation to their socio-institutional environment. This includes:|
|-||Approaches to and organisational forms of food supply chains;|
|-||Policies and regulations with respect to sustainable food production in general and food supply chains in particular;|
|-||Stakeholders' perceptions of and involvement in food supply chains;|
|-||Consumers' attitudes towards sustainable food products.|
|2.||To assess the general performance (sustainability, transparency, trust) of food supply chains, especially their ability to:|
|-||Initiate or encourage technical changes at both agricultural and processing levels;|
|-||Restore consumer confidence in food and the way it is produced at processed;|
|-||Incorporate environmental objectives and societal demands with regards to food production;|
|-||Enable viable economic development by retaining sufficient value added at farm level and within rural areas;|
|-||Create cohesion between different stages of the supply chain.|
|3.||To identify major opportunities and constraints with respect to improving the performance of food supply chains towards sustainability.|
The macro-level description and analysis will be conducted by means of a well-balanced range of complementary methods and tools1, such as reviews of completed and ongoing research on different aspects of food supply chains as well as on their socio-institutional environment, analysis of policies at national and European level regarding food supply chains, a desk study summarising previous findings on consumers' attitudes towards sustainable food products and interviews with relevant stakeholders (e.g. farmers' associations, retailers, consumers' organisations and policy-makers).
|1||For a review of methodological and conceptual issues involved see Knickel, K. and H. Renting (2000) Methodological and conceptual issues in the study of multifunctionality and rural development. Sociologia Ruralis 40 (4) pp. 512-528.|
The third phase of the project aims to result in a more in-depth and fine-tuned understanding of the socio-economic dynamics of food supply chains. This general aim of phase 3 is somewhat similar to that of phase 2. The main difference is that the focus of phase 2 is on the meso/macro-level dynamics of food supply chains, while phase 3 focuses on micro/meso-level dynamics. As such phase 3 will result in a much more detailed understanding of the dynamics of food supply chains compared to phase 2. Another difference between phase 2 and phase 3 is that the main focus of phase 2 is on description and analysis, while the main focus of phase 3 is on assessment of the performance of different food supply chains.
Phase 3 starts with the development of the case study methodology and the selection of cases. This is followed by 2 in-depth case studies per participating country. The objectives of the case studies are:
|-||A detailed description and analysis of the organisation forms and structures of different food supply chains;|
|-||A detailed description and analysis of the ways of communication and mechanisms of (horizontal and vertical) co-ordination within different food supply chains (e.g. labelling, face to face selling, product regulations, farm plans, codes of best practice etc.) as well as an assessment of their effectiveness in creating cohesion and successful collective action between different actors in the chain;|
|-||A detailed description and analysis of the socio-economic dynamics of different food supply chains, both in time and in space;|
|-||An assessment of the performance of different food supply chains in terms of different aspects of sustainability;|
|-||Identification (per case study) of bottlenecks that constrain the improvement of the collective performance towards sustainability;|
|-||A detailed description of the relevant policy environment associated with sustainable food supply chains (per case study) and analysis of relevant policy interfaces for different food supply chains.|
With respect to the case study selection it is crucial to come to an adequate, well-balanced and representative set of case examples, that cover diverse and contrasted food chain supply organisations. To reach this objective the well-known methodology of Glaser and Straus for comparative analysis1 will be applied. On the basis of the macro-level description and analysis (Phase 2) contrasting cases with respect to relevant key factors will be added to the set of cases until the 'point of saturation' is more or less reached. That is until it reasonably well covers the range of sustainable food supply chain initiatives encountered in the relevant empirical reality. A provisional case-study selection will be presented to the Commission services for possible comments.
The case-study methodology to be applied will first of all be based on the provisional sets of indicators as developed in Phase 1 and will initially address the same key factors. When during Phase 2 of the project additional relevant themes emerge, additional indicators may be formulated. Based on the experience of applying the set of indicators in Phase 2 the provisional set of indicators will be improved and adjusted.
It is foreseen that the case-study methodology will incorporate elements of different research methods that are applied in sociological and economic sciences and in the study of consumer perceptions. These may include: qualitative interviews, quantitative surveys, transaction cost analysis2, discourse analysis3 and innovative consumer studies4. The final case study methodology will be presented to the Commission services for possible comments.
Phase 3 ends with a transversal analysis of all the case studies. By following a comparative approach5 the transversal analysis will focus at identifying communalities and dissimilarities within the representative set of case examples, in order to answer the following objectives:
|-||To identify major patterns and underlying trends and trajectories regarding the socio-economic structure and dynamics of sustainable food supply chains by building typologies;|
|-||To identify mechanisms of communication and economic co-ordination that are successful in creating cohesion and effective collective action of stakeholders for different types of food supply chains.|
|-||To assess the performance of different types of food supply chains in terms of different aspects of sustainability and identify underlying key factors.|
|-||To identify 'nodal' points for (policy and other types of) intervention aimed at enhancing the performance for different types of food supply chains.|
|-||To identify bottlenecks and constraints for different types of food supply chains as well as possible ways to overcome these.|
|-||To identify the relevant policy environment and associated policy interfaces for different types of food supply chains.|
|1||Glaser, B.G. and A.L. Strauss (1967) The discovery of grounded theory. Strategies for qualitative research (Chicago).|
|2||See e.g. Barjolle, D. and J.M. Chappuis (2000) Transaction costs and artisanal food products, ISNIE-International Annual Conference, Tübingen, September 22-24, 2000; Verhaegen, I. and G. Van Huylenbroeck (1999) Analysing the governance of innovative local marketing channels in Belgian agriculture with the transaction cost theory. EAAE IXth Congress, Warsaw Poland), August 24-28, 1999; Ventura, F. and P. Milone (2000) Theory and practice of the multi-product farm: Farm butcheries in Umbria. Sociologia Ruralis 40 (4).|
|3||See e.g. Frouws, J. (1998) The contested redefinition of the countryside. An analysis of rural discourses in the Netherlands. Sociologia Ruralis 38 (1), pp. 54-68; Billaud, J.P., K. Bruckmeier, T. Patricio and F. Pinton (1995) Social construction of the rural environment. Europe and national discourse in France, Germany and Portugal. XVI ESRS Congress, Prague, July 31-August 4.|
|4||See e.g Nygard, B. and O. Storstad (1998) De-globalisation of food markets? Consumer perceptions of safe food: The case of Norway. Sociologia Ruralis 38, pp. 35-53; Y. Gabriel and T. Lang (....) The unmanageable consumer. Contemporary consumption and its fragmentations (Londen: SAGE); J. van Noppen, G. van Huylenbroeck and J. Viane (1999) Consumers' values with regard to buying food from short market channels. COST A12 Working Group 2 on Alternative Food Networks, Brussels, December 11-13; Schaer, B., Sirieix, L.: Les produits biologiques locaux: quelles perspectives? Actes de colloque SFER : Signes officiels de qualité et développement agricole (1999), pp. 241-246.|
|5||See Ploeg, J.D. van der and H.Renting (2000) Impact and potential: A comparative review of rural development practices. Sociologia Ruralis 40 (4) pp. 529-543.|
The fourth phase of the project will focus on the translation of research findings into recommendations for policy and other types of intervention. The recommendations will first of all build upon the findings from the meso/macro-level analysis of phase 2 and the micro/meso-level analysis of phase 3. Where necessary at specific points (e.g. specific policy schemes or regulations) limited additional research will be done, mainly consisting of the consultation of policy makers (at different levels), organisations of stakeholders and desk-studies. Two types of recommendations are intended:
|1.||Policy recommendations, enabling policy-makers at regional, national and European level to support the development of sustainable food supply chains;|
|2.||Practical recommendations (i.e. protocols: tools, methods and strategies), enabling actors in the food supply chain and 'surrounding' actors (e.g. farmers' unions, consumer organisations, environmental groups, extension services, applied research institutes, local partnerships) to improve the performance of food supply chains towards sustainability.|
The 'nodal' points for intervention to enhance the collective performance of (different types) of food supply chains, that where identified in the previous phases, will form the basis for the formulation of recommendations. In this phase the relevant policy environment associated with sustainable food supply chains that was 'mapped' in Phase 2, and described more profoundly as part of the case-studies, will be analysed in relation to different types of food supply chains. The methodology to be applied is that of interface analysis as has been amply described by Long & Long1. 'Interface analysis' focuses on the complex and often highly differentiated interactions between policy and practice, which can differ considerably between different contextual settings. It is therefore highly suitable for analysing the impact of policy frameworks on the performance of supply chains in the context of different supply chain organisations and national/regional contexts.
As far as possible it is intended to identify communalities in the policy interfaces associated with food supply chains in different territorial contexts in order to come to general recommendations for different types of supply chain organisations. Where this is not possible in view of regional differences, the focus will be on general, more procedural recommendations related to different aspects of the policy process such as policy formulation, implementation, monitoring and the role of organisations of stakeholders in these.
In the analyses of policy interfaces special attention will be given to interrelations between different policy schemes and measures, by assessing the impact of combined implementation, studying possibilities for creating synergies between different policies, and indicating ways to overcome fragmentation and contradictions. Also the evolutionary dynamics of sustainable food supply chains will be addressed by identifying specific bottle-necks and requirements in different stages of their development as well as ways to facilitate the building of 'social capital' over time.
|1||See Long, N. & A. Long (1992) Battlefields of Knowledge: the interlocking of theory and practice in social research and development (Londen: Routledge)|
In SUS-CHAIN we opt for an active involvement of end-users throughout the project (see section 5 'Exploitation and dissemination activities' for an elaborated dissemination strategy).
The participation of subcontracting NGO's is of crucial importance for the dissemination activities of the programme and guarantees adequate access to and good communication with three different target groups:
|1.||Stakeholders in the social and institutional environment of food chains (e.g. politicians, consumer organisations, environmental groups, applied research institutions, extension services etc.);|
|2.||Actors in the food chain and organisations of these (e.g. farmers, retailers, processing industry, etc.);|
|3.||The scientific community (agricultural sciences, environmental sciences, consumer studies, economy, sociology, rural studies, etc.).|
At the start of this last phase of the project a dissemination plan will be drawn out, with a specific input of and role for the NGO-subcontractors. The plan will be presented to the Commission services for comments, suggestions and approval.
At national level three seminars will be organised oriented at the most relevant combination of target groups for each specific national/regional setting. The aim of these seminars is to get feedback from the target groups on the provisional results of the project, to validate these provisional findings and to disseminate results to the target groups. The seminars will be organised one month before the delivery date of important deliverables and/or milestones. In this way the national research teams (contractors and subcontractors) will be able to use the comments of the seminar participants (i.e. representatives of the target groups) in the finalisation of different deliverables (reports). The first seminar (month 9) is intended to get feedback on the provisional set of performance indicators and on the provisional results of phase 2 and to get suggestions for interesting and relevant cases for phase 3. The aim of the second seminar (month 20) is to get feedback on the results of the case studies, in particular on the assessment of the socio-economic performance of the food supply chains and on the identification of opportunities and constraints for the sustainable development of these food supply chains. At the second seminar the results from other countries will be discussed as well in order to assess whether experiences from other countries are relevant to the domestic situation. The third and last seminar (month 31) will be organised to get feedback on and fine-tune the practical and policy recommendations.
At the European level the dissemination activities will focus at the elaboration of a practical protocol of ways to improve the collective performance of sustainable food supply chains. This protocol will be presented at an international conference oriented at Commission representatives and policy makers / stakeholders' organisations from the participating countries. Dissemination of results to the scientific community will, besides the national seminars, mainly be done by means of the various reports of the project and a scientific book, in addition to normal channels of publication such as scientific journals, presentations at scientific conferences and the Internet.